An innovative agriculture startup plans to open an indoor vertical farm in Compton to help bring more jobs and loads of fresh produce to the California city.
Plenty, the company behind the project, said it will condense 700 acres of farmland into a 95,000 square foot warehouse in Los Angeles County, where food-bearing plants will grow vertically and in abundance.
The Compton site will be the company’s second and largest vertical farm. Plenty opened its first vertical farm in San Francisco in 2018, and maintains a research and development farm in Laramie, Wyoming.
By building farms vertically, Plenty said it is able to grow healthy, quality produce without harming the environment.
The unique layout will also make it possible to establish farms in urban areas, where land resources are limited and food insecurity is widespread.
An innovative approach to farming
Plenty uses a range of technologies to realize its goal of more productive and Earth-friendly farming — including vertical plant towers, LED lighting and robots to plant, feed and harvest crops.
The farms are able to grow plants faster, with greater nutritional density, and without the help of pesticides, the company said.
To create them, the company said it does not clear lands or pollute grounds, and only uses a fraction of the water that traditional farming requires.
“It is very impactful from a climate change perspective,” Shireen Santosham, Plenty’s head of strategic initiatives, told CNN.
“Eighty to 90% of water used around the world is for agriculture. Because we grow our plants using precise nutrient recipes, we can use a very small solution of water.”
Traditional farms are usually only able to harvest crops a few times a year, said Santosham.
But because Plenty’s farms are free of constraints like seasonal and weather changes, harmful pests and natural disasters, they can produce food all year long.
The company said it also prioritizes health and cleanliness. Its crops are cultivated in a hyper clean environments, where staff dress in full personal protective equipment and robots do much of the picking.
The first time produce is touched by bare hands is when a consumer opens a food package at home, the company said.
Plenty said it’s all part of its mission “to improve the lives of Plants, People and our Planet.”
Helping to uplift the Compton community
With its Compton farm, Plenty said it aims to tackle issues of unemployment and food insecurity.
“Plenty looks at food justice as racial justice, so it’s important to us that the nutritious products we’re producing are available locally in Compton,” Santosham said.
“We will also donate products to various organizations that combat food insecurity.”
The company has already partnered with Alma Backyard Farms, a local community garden, to distribute hundreds of meal kits to residents during the pandemic.
The number of people living with food insecurity in Los Angeles County increased exponentially following the coronavirus pandemic, jumping from 1 in 5 people to 1 in 4 people now needing food assistance, according to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Plenty said it’s also committed to hiring 50 full-time employees from Compton, and is partnering with local workforce development groups to build its team.
“Jobs are dignity, jobs are pride, and we want to make sure we’re lifting up individuals in the community when we go into a new city,” Santosham said.
Plenty also plans to partner with the local school district to teach students about agriculture.
Compton Mayor Aja Brown has welcomed Plenty to the city and praised it for engaging with the community.
“We are happy to see the Plenty farm start to grow its roots in the community during the build out process,” Brown said in a statement.
“The vegetables Plenty produces will be proudly grown and managed by Compton residents, and we look forward to creating a solid partnership with them.”
Brown told CNN affiliate KABC that she believes Plenty’s “mission to combat food insecurities is right in line with our vision that we have for Compton.”
The new farm will be complete by the end of 2021, Plenty said, and will service more than 100 grocery stores in California.